The second-round series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks will have wide-ranging effects on the league aside from simply determining one half of the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston’s fate could be intertwined with their chances of keeping Kyrie Irving, who will be among the best players available this summer.

A few teams in particular will have their eyes on the 2019 NBA playoff matchup. Amid rumors that Irving will consider both the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks in free agency, the two organizations certainly have a rooting interest.

There’s no question that a quick exit for the Celtics would only increase the odds of Irving leaving Boston. By the same token, if Boston can upset Milwaukee and take one step closer toward reaching the NBA Finals, the point guard will probably be more likely to re-sign with the organization.

A lot has happened with Irving over the last several months. Shortly before the season began, the All-Star said he would stay with the Celtics for the long term as long as the organization wanted him. After Boston played inconsistent basketball for the first half of the year and Irving continued to express his frustration about the season, he indicated he could head elsewhere.

Irving’s comments came on the heels of the Knicks trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. The move gave New York enough space under the salary cap to sign two max free agents in July. Most NBA insiders seem to believe one of those slots will be used on Kevin Durant, and Irving quickly became pegged as the second star most likely to join the Golden State Warriors’ star in the Big Apple.

The Lakers can sign one max free agent in their desperate attempt to pair LeBron James with another All-Star. Los Angeles is not expected to land a true superstar in free agency, and the odds are against Irving reuniting with the NBA’s top star.

However, Irving’s recent reconciliation with his former teammate has at least created the opportunity for the Lakers to make a real play for the 27-year-old. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has reported that Irving will meet with L.A. this summer. Of all the true game-changing players that will hit free agency, Irving is probably the most likely to join the Lakers.

While Durant is heavily rumored to sign with the Knicks, that’s unlikely to change if the Warriors win a third straight championship. The speculation surrounding Irving might largely be dependent on the outcome of Boston’s playoff run.

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after Jayson Tatum scored against the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden in Boston, Dec. 19, 2018. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers after the team lost in the 2017 NBA Finals. The point guard wanted a chance to lead his own team after spending three years as James’ sidekick.

If Irving’s able to be the best player on a team that beats the East’s No.1 seed and potentially wins the conference, why would he leave that situation to take less money elsewhere?

Boston can offer Irving a five-year contract worth around to $188 million. The best New York and Los Angeles can do is a four-year deal worth around $140 million.

Of course, the Celtics’ second-round series won’t be the only factor in Irving’s decision. Beating the Bucks might not be enough if the team has a poor showing in the conference finals. Maybe Boston will trade for Anthony Davis and convince Irving to stay, no matter what happens this postseason.

But you can be sure that Irving’s suitors in free agency will be cheering hard for Milwaukee, hoping he has another reason to look for a change of scenery after the playoffs.